Experimenting with Roasty Toasty Goodness…

“Y’all know me, know how I make a livin'” or so said Quint in the movie “Jaws” (at the town meeting before he gets eaten by the shark) but some folks out there reading this may not know that this blog is just my creative outlet and not my livin’. I would not mind doing this for a living but it is a way to express myself through food. If you are a first time reader, welcome! and if you are a returning reader, welcome back! Ah, enough of this sappy talk and on with today’s recipes. Yes, I said recipes, plural!

To give you some background, I was walking through the neighborhood store one day and “eye grazing” (it’s a thing) spices when Roasted Ground Ginger caught my eye. Knowing I had Toasted Sesame seeds at the house it started me thinking that I HAD to get these two together somehow. I was originally at a loss as to which protein I wanted to use for this experiment. The problem was that the Roasty combined with the Toasty were kind of sultry, sexy and deep flavors and I knew that doing something like a steak would muddle them and create palate confusion.  Nobody wants palate confusion because the next thing you know you are scoring a corn dog on some side street and calling it a gourmet meal. I knew I wanted something a bit sweet and light so the first thing that came to mind was crab but not being hyper motivated to make crab burgers or something of the like I decided on some type of fish. A trip to my favorite fish market “Mr. Fish” here in Myrtle Beach helped me decide on what kind.  I used Corvina which is a light sweet flakey fish along the same lines as grouper but a bit more tender. Please note that if you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area Mr. Fish is a tremendous place to buy seafood. Their knowledge of their inventory is expansive and are always willing to help you find exactly what you want.  There is also a Mr. Fish restaurant next door which has some great food and the chef has it “goin’ on” with different types of sauces. Also, their crab cakes are to die for.  So, Corvina was the choice and I decided to serve this with a Daikon radish and zucchini salad (recipe below) and jasmine rice. Without further delay here are the recipes.

Roasty Toasty Corvina

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 lb – Corvina filets (2, 8 ounce servings) (You could substitute Grouper or any other mild, sweet, flakey, fish)

1/2 cup – Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup – Whole, wheat flour, unbleached (I find that this type of flour brings out the smoky flavors in the seasonings)

2 tbs – Toasted sesame seeds

1 ½ tsps. – Roasted ground ginger

2 tsps – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tbs – Dried parsley

2 tbs – Soy Sauce (I use Kikoman lite soy sauce to cut down on sodium)

Construction Instruction:

In a one gallon sealable plastic bag or medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, wheat flour, sesame seeds, ginger, coarse ground black pepper and parsley. When you have done this either seal (yes that is important) and shake the bag to thoroughly mix the ingredients or whisk them together in the bowl to do the same thing. Next, take the mixture and place on a plate or a shallow dish. Then dip the filets in water and press into the mixture and coat each side evenly. Place the filets in a ceramic or glass baking dish which has been sprayed with some cooking spray and a small amount of water. (Note: the water should not be very deep and should only barely cover the bottom of the dish) Before baking, drizzle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce down the center of each filet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (time will depend on how thick the filets are) until fish flakes easily.

Spiralize This! (Daikon Radish and Zucchini Salad)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 – Medium zucchini, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1 – Small Daikon radish, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1/4 – Medium sweet onion, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup – Shredded carrots

1/2 – Red bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/2 – Yellow bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/3 cup – White mushrooms, diced (You could also use a mixture of mushrooms like shitake, or others which may give it a bit more flavor)

10 to 15 – Small grape tomatoes, halved

Ginger salad dressing

Construction Instruction:

I will tell you that the easiest way to go here is to get a “Spiralizer”, which is not too expensive, and run the daikon radish and zucchini through it and put in a medium bowl. After slicing the onion and peppers, add these along with the shredded carrots into the same bowl. Note: I used shredded carrots because although I could have run large carrots through the “Spiralizer”, this saved some preparation time. Once all the long ingredients and the mushrooms are in the bowl, lightly toss to get all of these items evenly distributed. When this is done add the tomatoes and lightly season the salad with the ginger dressing or you can serve and allow your guests to season their own salads.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Key West is Best…

Well I promised this post yesterday, but I have to admit I got sidetracked taking pictures at Huntington Beach State Park here in South Carolina.  The pictures came out really good but at the end of the day I was not motivated enough to reverse engineer the quantities for the marinade ingredients. (As most of you know, I “eyeball” many of my ingredient quantities for a first run on a recipe, hence, the reverse engineering technique) Before I started this recipe I looked on line and saw that there are quite a few “Cilantro – Lime” chicken recipes. Because I did not want this to get lost in the crowd, I decided to use Key Lime juice instead of regular limes to give the flavor a bit more depth (less acidic and more flavor) and some Spanish smoked paprika to add that special touch (soft smokey goodness). The only salt component is the soy sauce and even that is on the light side because I wanted each of the marinade ingredients to shine in the finished product.

The real reason that I wanted to do this type of chicken is because I needed something to go with my inaugural run for fried plantains as a side. I originally had plantains at a Cuban restaurant in Miami’s South Beach and have always wanted to try to make them.  They are super easy and came out perfect but I did melt a spatula in the process so nylon and plastic should not be used to get them out of the pan.  OOps!

Because I did not deliver on my promise to write yesterday,  I am putting all of the recipes for this meal in this entry.  I hope you try them and enjoy!

Key West is Best

Key Lime – Cilantro Chicken

Gary Bechard –The Well Fed Cyclist

Protein:

2 – Boneless skinless chicken breasts (large, about 1.3 lbs, trimmed of fat)

Marinade

Ingredients:

3/4 cup – Key Lime juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s brand, which you can find in the juice aisle or you can squeeze the juice from an entire bag of Key limes)

1/4 cup – Peanut oil (canola or vegetable would also work)

2 tsps – Cumin

1 ½ tsps – Spanish smoked paprika

3/4 cup – Fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp – Soy sauce (I used the Kikoman Lite sodium version)

2 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Red pepper flakes

Construction Instruction:

In a large bowl combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk together until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag or a deep baking dish and cover the chicken with the marinade. Then seal the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (more for deeper flavor). Make sure to turn the meat in the marinade occasionally so that all sides get a turn soaking up the goodness.

When the chicken is done marinating, heat your grill to around 350 to 400 degrees. Place chicken on the heat and grill for about 5 minutes, turn over, another 5 minutes, turn over to get good grill marks. Keep turning the chicken every 5 minutes until done. The chicken will take around 25 to 30 minutes overall and will be a bit firm when you press down on them with your fork or tongs and should have clear juices if you put them on a plate.

It’s the B.B.C! (salad that is)

(Black Bean and Corn Salad)

1 – Can of golden sweet corn (I like the yellow and white because it makes the salad more colorful) (regular size can, 15 oz))

1 – Can of black beans (regular size can., 15 oz)

½ – Red bell pepper (fine diced)

½ – Green bell pepper (fine diced)

¼ – Sweet onion (fine diced) (more if you like that sort of thing)

1 – Handful of fresh parsley (chopped fine) (dried works but you do not get the full flavor)

1 – Tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

1 1/2 – Turns around the bowl of extra virgin olive oil (a little less than ¼ cup, you do not want to drown the salad)

3 to 4 – Splashes of white balsamic vinegar

In a large colander, pour in can of beans and rinse with water. Then, take can of corn and pour over the beans and drain well. Add these items to a large bowl and lightly mix together. Next add red bell pepper, green bell pepper and onion. Mix these items together until all ingredients are evenly disbursed. Add parsley, black pepper and do the rounds with the olive oil, splash with balsamic vinegar and mix well making sure all of the ingredients are coated well. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours and serve.

This is good as a salad but it also makes GREAT quesadillas. For this you will need some burrito size tortillas (I use whole wheat but white is fine. Whatever turns your crank) and about 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar or mixed Mexican cheese.   Take a large cookie sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray and place one tortilla down, layer some of the salad at about “one bean’s depth” making sure that there is one layer. (Note: on a normal size cookie sheet you can usually fit one large and a half and that is about it.) Take cheese and spread evenly over the top of the salad mixture. Make sure that the cheese in not overly thick. Add the next tortilla(s) to the top and place in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Heat until you can see the cheese melting on the inside and serve.

As a side note, I have also been known to add shredded cooked chicken to make black bean and chicken quesadillas for your meat eating friends or serve as a warm entrée without the tortillas.

Plantains – Find 3 to 4 ripe plantains (they will be the green ones with some black spots on them), cut them into 1/4 inch slices.  In a deep pan, put about an inch of peanut or canola oil in the bottom and bring the oil to about 300 degrees. (If you do not have a thermometer, you will see a shimmer on the oil when it is ready). Place the plantain slices in the oil and remove when they are a golden brown. Put the finished plantains on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with coarse ground sea salt and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Finally! (I was able to get off my keester and write something)

I have been wondering when I would be able to have enough time to cook and then write something worth reading. In my defense, I can say that I have been pretty busy teaching courses at the local community college and learning Spanish (the most fun I have had learning a language,  thank you DuoLingo) and have finally made the time to cook and write something new. However, if you have been following the previous posts, I, unfortunately, have not completed my cabbage stuffing quest (stuffing every kind of cabbage I know) and still have red cabbage left on the agenda.  I have the recipe in mind but have not committed myself to doing the cooking as most of the cabbage recipes can be a bit labor intensive.  Today’s recipe is a twist on a comfort food from my youth. The recipe is easy and makes enough to feed an army. Well, maybe not a whole army but I know it did pretty well for me and my 3 brothers and sister growing up.  The dish has many different names, beef goulash, beef and macaroni casserole, American goulash but we always knew it as American Chop Suey. I wanted to twist the recipe without breaking its simplicity and keep it as an homage to my and probably everyone else’s past.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.

New Twist ACS  – (American “Chop Suey”)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1 lb – Cavatapi (macaroni or any short pasta that suits your fancy, I use Barilla)

2 – 23 ounce jars of smooth spaghetti sauce (a nice marinara or tomato and basil) or you can use some homemade sauce you may have already made.

1 ½ lbs – Ground beef (I use 90/10 ground sirloin)

3 – Cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 – Yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 – Green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 – Medium, sweet onion, chopped

2 oz – Sliced black olives (one small can of pre-sliced)

3/4 tsp – Sea Salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Just enough to do a couple of turns around the skillet

Construction Instruction – In a very large skillet, one that has a lid, do a couple of turns around the pan with the extra virgin olive oil and bring to medium heat. Next, add the minced garlic and sauté until tender while making sure it does not turn brown as that would cause it to become bitter. After the garlic is done, add the ground beef. Brown the beef and season it with the sea salt and black pepper. When the ground beef is fully browned, move to the outside of the skillet (kind of like a doughnut look), put the peppers and onions in the center and sauté until soft then fold them in with the ground beef making sure everything is mixed evenly. Once that is done add the sliced olives and thoroughly mix again. After completing the mixture, add the 2 jars of sauce, stirring the sauce through the mixture, lower the heat to low and cover. Make sure to stir occasionally to keep the temperature even.

In a large pot, prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box being sure to cook only to “al dente” (nobody likes mushy pasta). Drain the pasta thoroughly and put back into the pot, take the sauce mixture and add to the pasta and fold everything together until ingredients are evenly distributed. At this point you can keep this on the stove on low, stirring occasionally until you are ready to eat or serve it right away.

Serve this with some good Parmesan or Romano cheese, or go wild and have both! I served this along side fresh sliced cucumbers.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

The year in review…

I believe I have been a poor host for this blog over the past few months but let me just say this in my defense, 2016 has not been very good to me.  I was laid off/ downsized/right sized/ sold/merged/became a redundancy for the 5th time in as many companies and I am getting to the point where it seems I am too old to hire and too young to retire. (any company that tells you they do not practice “age discrimination” is full of it by the way) This has kind of put the “kibosh” on my cooking creativity as I devote most of my days, 7 days a week to finding a new position.  Working with food would be great but the start up costs are a bit prohibitive and I do not have a formal culinary degree so working in a local kitchen is unlikely unless I become the dishwasher extraordinaire.  My promise to any readers I have are that I will do better in 2017 because if nothing else, I am proud of what I do here and hope people enjoy reading the posts even if they do not try the recipes.  Coming up in 2017 will be the last of my cabbage stuffing exploits where chorizo and spanish rice become the mixture and red cabbage the vessel.  (I am kind of looking forward to that one).  Once again, thank you all for reading and for being patient with me.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Does its size really matter…

One would have to wonder about the above question as it has been debated for years and I guess it all depends on what “it” is. I know for a fact that I would have a difficult time  using giant size utensils to eat my regular meals or, to use a contra example, very, very small ones for the same purpose. I guess we will have to answer this question with, “it all depends on what and the situation”,of course.

Sorry, I have not posted in a while but job searching, fleeing the homestead and hurricane Matthew clean up and repair took precedence.  Most of that silliness is done except for the finding of a job part.  However, on a positive note, it has given me more time to dream about food and think of different flavor combinations and recipes. This particular recipe was one I thought of while cruising the vegetable aisle at my local food store and noticing that the zucchini from the local farmers were HUGE!  Wow! I thought, one of these could feed a small country. Deciding against the idea of feeding a small country because the zucchini would most likely not still be fresh when it arrived , I wanted to do a stuffed version as a dinner. (saves on vegetable pans and clean up you know) I know what you are thinking, “this has been done a million times” but for me it was less about being original and more about doing a great dinner and maybe coming up with a stuffing that could be used in different ways.  This stuffing mixture has already led me to a new idea of stuffing yet another type of cabbage, red. (the final frontier of cabbages for me) Details on this idea are still in the works but will coming shortly to a computer near you.

Without further adieu, the stuffing did turn out, as Borat says, “Very Nice” and I will most likely use it in home-made ravioli or possibly add it to my marinara sauce to make a sort of bolognese for fresh pasta noodles. For now tough, here is the recipe.

Z-Size Matters

(Sausage stuffed zucchini) (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

4 – Zucchini, large, washed and halved on the long axis with the seeds scooped out (kind of zucchini canoes, if you will)

1 lb – Ground Italian sausage, (you would also use the ones with the casing but you would have to take that off before cooking) mild, (to spice it up you could also use hot sausage)

1/3 cup – Sweet onion, chopped

1/3 cup – Mushrooms, fine chopped, I used Baby Bella mushrooms (baby portabellas)

1/3 cup – Green Bell pepper, finely chopped

1/3 cup – Red Bell pepper, finely chopped

3 oz – Chopped black olives

1/2 tsp – Kosher salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp – Dried Oregano

1 tbsp – Dried Basil

2 cloves – Garlic, fine chopped

2 tbs (more or less) – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 to 6 ozs – mixed shaved Italian cheeses (this becomes the topping)

Preparation – First, take the sausage and brown in a large skillet over medium heat. When the sausage is done, remove with a slotted spoon and place on the side in a large bowl. Using the rendered fat from the sausage and a little bit of olive oil, bring the skillet back up to low medium temperature and first sauté the garlic (make sure that this does not turn dark brown because it will become bitter), onions, green and red bell peppers. Next, lower the heat and add in the chopped mushrooms, black olives and season the entire mixture with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil. Keep the mixture on the heat until the mushrooms soften and the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and add this to the cooked sausage in the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Construction Instruction – Arrange your zucchini “boats” in a 9 X 12 baking dish (or one that fits the zucchini so they will not fall over during baking) with the scooped side up. Using a large spoon, stuff each of the zucchini with the mixture. Note: It is okay to mound the mixture, as it does not need to be level with the top of the opening. Once all of the stuffing is in the zucchinis, take the mixed cheeses and lightly cover the top of each. Place in a pre-heated, 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes where the cheese will slightly brown.

This was served with slices of rosemary/olive oil Italian bread.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

 

 

 

 

“Mighty Rad Gumbo”…

Or so sang “Little Feat” in this song about gumbo and his mamma being in the “Seafood Hall of Fame” because of her cooking. It was this song that was my original inspiration to create a gumbo recipe. If you have ever read this blog, you will know that I am no stranger to driving, a LOT, whether it was my epic 4 hour round trip to commute to my last job or the months I had to drive north to western Pennsylvania before we moved there. Along those same lines, I recently completed a move to North Myrtle Beach and, as can be imagined, there was a great deal of driving involved as we shuttled items from western Pennsylvania to the beach. When the weather is nice and people aren’t driving while sitting on their shoulders, I listen to my iPod and when this song came up my mind went into overdrive!  I had never done a gumbo, sure there were stews and soups and such but gumbo?  In my head, it was kind of exotic.  You know the stuff that chefs in New Orleans (Neawleans as pronounced) do with their voodoo spices and tantric cooking practices. So, I did not want to do a “safe” regular gumbo but wanted to do something that brought together a whole host of other flavors (kind of a combination creole-gumbo, a “cre-umbo”, if you will) and since I was cooking for a large group, I wanted it to make a decent quantity so you may have to trim down the amount of the individual ingredients if you are making for fewer than 8. You may notice that there is no added salt or an excess of seasonings as all of the flavor comes from the Andouille sausage with which you start the recipe. This recipe is the result of all that time in the car. I loved it and so did the folks who were eating it (one had it for breakfast the next morning).  As you may, or may not, know the first to taste a new recipe has the honor of creating the name.  My niece Caroline (the southern one), because of the Olympics in Rio gave the recipe its name, “Brazilian Blowout Gumbo”.  (special note: next up is a honey mustard, tarragon glazed chicken but that will be later this week)

Brazilian Blowout Gumbo

(Makes 6 – 8 servings)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

3 – Boneless-skinless chicken breasts, cubed

14 ounces – Andouille sausage, sliced crosswise

16 ounces – Cooked tail off shrimp, defrosted, 51 to 70 count

1 cup – Fresh okra sliced

1/3 – Medium sweet onion, rough diced

1/3 – Red bell pepper, diced

1/3 – Yellow bell pepper, diced

1/3 – Green bell pepper, diced

1 ½ stalks – Celery, diced

1 – 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes

1 – 28 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 – 28 ounce can of diced fire roasted tomatoes

2 – 15 ounce cans of fire roasted corn

1 handful (about 3/4ths cup) – Fresh Parsley leaves, finely chopped

3 – Cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 ounces – Chicken stock (or vegetable stock if the spirit moves you)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I say this amount but it should only be enough to swirl around the bottom of the pot a couple of times during the cooking process)

1 tbsp – Coarse ground black pepper

2 tsp – Thyme (I used dried ground)

A brief note before the construction instructions: I normally chop my vegetables and meat ingredients ahead of time because it makes for easier cooking and cleaning.

Construction Instructions:

In a big stockpot, pour a nice “figure 8” of olive oil on the bottom. Turn the heat to mid range (5 or 6 on most electric ranges) and bring the oil up to temperature remembering that olive oil has a low smoke point and does not withstand high heat very well without breaking down. When the oil is hot, add Andouille sausage slices and cook them until they are done and they have rendered their fatty goodness on the bottom of the pan. Remove the slices from the pot with a slotted spoon, set aside and add a little bit more olive oil and bring the oil back up to temperature. Next add the chicken cubes and cook them until they are done and repeat the process of removing the cubed chicken and setting aside. Once again, drizzle a little bit of oil in the pot and with a wooden spoon scrape some of the tasty bits off the bottom and add your garlic sautéing this until the garlic softens making sure that you do not allow the garlic to turn brown. Lower the heat to low medium and then, add the onions, peppers and celery sautéing these until they soften. With all of that goodness going on in the pot, add the okra slices and pour in the chicken stock covering the vegetables. Cook the okra until it is tender then add back the chicken and the sausage. Once this is done, add each of the cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce and the fire roasted corn (water and all) and stir all of these together allowing the ingredients to get acquainted. Next add the parsley and the thyme, re-stir, to distribute the herbs evenly. Lower the heat so that the mixture is at a low simmer (the liquid will lightly bubble and not be a rolling boil) and make sure that you are constantly stirring to make sure the heat stays even throughout the mixture and to start breaking down the whole tomatoes. You can aid in breaking down the tomatoes by cutting them through with the edge of the wooden spoon with which you are using to stir. The process will take about 30 to 40 minutes and you should notice that your liquids cooking down a bit. In the last 10 minutes, after the whole tomatoes have broken down, add the shrimp and cook for another 10 minutes until they are heated thoroughly.

I served this over whole grain brown rice with jalapeno-cheese bread slices.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

You always remember your first…

There are all kinds of firsts; first car, first girlfriend, first kiss, etc., etc. but there is a first for a food blogger (I think that is what I am, at least part time anyway) and that is the restaurant review. I will preface this review with the fact that I have been a dishwasher, bus boy, waiter and wine steward for various restaurants where I have had the good fortune to be able to learn from folks that made restaurants their life’s business. What I witnessed and experienced at this restaurant pushes the boundaries of what these folks told me regarding making sure that the diner has a great experience. Please keep in mind that this is only one night and that it may not be representative of the restaurant’s overall performance. Now on with the review.

I am here in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we, as a group, decided to go to a place called Nacho Hippo. It has a very “beachy” vibe with a relaxed , laid back atmoshpere and lots of outdoor seating.  The volume of the music was a tad too loud for me because it made casual conversation with folks at the table a bit difficult but it could be overlooked since there were a large number of people (You might want to add that I am “old” too). The sign out front stated that they normally had live music which started around 7:00pm. The wait was typical for the beach during “in season”, about 40 minutes (we arrived at around 5:00pm so if you are going later be prepared).  Please note that the restaurant staff states that after 7:00pm the place gets “nuts”. The Hippo has a decent menu with some interesting items like their Fritter appetizer. The food offerings seem to be a fusion of Southern California, local South Carolina and American twists on nachos, burritos and tacos.  Service was decent but it appeared that they were a bit short staffed on knowledgeable servers since in some cases chaos and mixed up orders reigned supreme.  Plus, it is a long walk from the kitchen to the dining area so there may be one of the causes. The food tasted good with a nice mixture of flavors but the tacos arrived cool and the black beans and rice were one step above being removed from the refrigerator.

Based on the experience, I cannot wholeheartedly reccommend this restaturant but I will most likely give it another try and see how they do. You should too.

The Well Fed Cyclist